Tom Spurgeon's Web site of comics news, reviews, interviews and commentary

June 21, 2012

Comics I Read In Series Form In The 1980s: Reid Fleming, The World's Toughest Milkman


David Boswell's Reid Fleming work was, with Bob Burden's Flaming Carrot and Matt Groening's Life In Hell collections, the pinnacle of agreed-upon, first-rate, not-exactly-everywhere comics humor -- those three together something of a reverse trinity to the more popular Calvin & Hobbes, Far Side and Bloom County group of mass-market newspaper strips that were widely available and had to be shared with peers and parents. Reid Fleming was one of ours. My memories of Boswell's work may be unique to every comic on this list in that I hardly recall the comic books themselves. I think there were a couple of different series, at least one of which collected newspaper work, and the magnificent Heartbreak Comics one-shot fit in there somewhere. It's like Reid almost had a life distinct from the comics page as a collection of shared ideas and one-liners, not just repeating lines like "78 cents or I piss on your flowers" but enthusing over set pieces like Reid's adherence to the various, bizarre Ivan TV shows. Steven worked that way, too. We told stories from Flaming Carrot. We sort of told stories about Reid Fleming, like he was some dude that lived downtown.

What's odd about this kind of second life for the character is that Boswell's work benefits greatly from the clear, unadorned representation of Fleming's oddball world. That's my obtuse way of saying I like these comics. I enjoy Boswell's art in those books. I think it suits the character and is intermittently attractive on its own in a way that can be appreciated all by itself. I mean this in the nicest way possible, but the Fleming comic books always felt on some level like the assistant to the guy that did the Heartbreak Comics book was getting his chance at the big time. This is completely insane, of course. But so was Reid Fleming, that good kind of crazy that kind of knocked you out of the intense boredom of being a teen for a few moments.
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